“What do you want for dinner, and if you say ‘you’ again, I may throw something?” asked Diana, standing with the fridge door wide open.
Danny grinned, and leaned over to grab his glass of juice from the breakfast bar. Despite all his misgivings, life at Diana’s house was pretty good. Okay it wasn’t the Ritz, but it was comfortable, and Diana seemed to be very happy to be back in her own element.
“What are the options?”
“We could send out for pizza; they deliver. The chippy is just round the corner, so is the Co-Op. What’s your soul food?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you choose to eat that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed? Some people like Shepherd’s pie, others want a roast dinner, fish and chips, omelette, Toad in the Hole?”
“Can you do omelettes? I can’t remember the last time I had a decent omelette. There’s no point ordering them in hotels. They just arrive tasting and looking like a rubber tyre. Don’t even get me started on the rubbish they serve up as omelettes in LA.”
“Define omelette? Plain, cheese, ham, or ham and cheese?”
“Oh, ham and cheese. Have you got the stuff for it though?”
“Do I really have to get dressed? It’s just that this house is nice and warm, and you have carpets and comfortable furniture.”
“Let me guess, the Cotswold house is very white, very laminate, very tiled, and the only place you can veg out on is your bed.”
“How did you know? Mike never got the chance to show you any photos.”
“Ted told me. That was why he had a quick look round before he left. Jenny and Ted are going to make your house more comfortable for you.”
“Just for me? Or for us?”
“It could be for us – as long as you understand that I am used to cooking and cleaning, so the culture shock is going to be far greater for me than it is for you. Talking of which, I need to put some washing in. Let’s go upstairs, and sort out some clothes before I go shopping. Don’t pout, Danny. I am happy to wash your clothes with mine, but I think you ought to try just a little bit of unpacking too.”
Danny chased her up the stairs and into their bedroom. He paused at the door and touched the hasp and padlock and raised his eyebrows.
“Were you intending to lock me in when you go out? I’ve seen the film ‘Misery’ you know.”
“Did you enjoy it?”
“Fell asleep. Mike woke me up when it finished, and suggested I go to bed because I was snoring. Do I snore?”
“I don’t think so, I seem to sleep very soundly when I’m with you – when I’m not being woken in the night by emergencies, that is. When John was still living in Ben’s bedroom, I realised that he was going into my room and rooting around when I was out. My DIY skills weren’t up to fitting a proper lock, but Helen suggested a hasp and padlock instead. I bought one with a combination lock, and came up with a sequence that he’d never guess. He didn’t manage to work it out, but I know he tried because the numbers were always jumbled up when I came home from work.”
“Do I have to unpack everything now?” said Danny plaintively, as he looked at the pile of bags and cases. “There’s quite a lot of stuff here.”
“I doubt if you need most of it. Mark’s taken most of your clothes home, but I think we could push the boat out and have clean nightclothes – especially if you get cold shoulders again. I’ll bring the laundry bag in from the bathroom. Half of this wardrobe is yours and there are plenty of hangers; you can have the two lower drawers in the chest for socks and boxers. That isn’t too difficult to accomplish, is it? You are pouting again, Danny.”
“What’s in this box?” Danny picked up the box and backed out of the wardrobe. Diana blushed, took it away from him and hid it behind her back. He wasn’t deterred that easily.
“No more unpacking until you show me what’s in the box.”
Danny stood his ground.
“It’s nothing.” Diana muttered.
“Show me – please?”
Very reluctantly, Diana handed him the box and shut her eyes as he opened it.
“Is this yours?” he asked. She nodded and continued to blush. He put the box on the bed and tilted her face up to his. She still couldn’t look him in the eye.
“It was a Christmas present from Helen,” she said. “I’ve never used it in case John heard. It makes a hell of a noise.”
“Can I have a look – and a listen?” he asked very politely but with that naughty grin. Reluctantly, Diana picked up the box and took out the extremely large and pink vibrator. She turned it on, then turned it off again very quickly. Danny fell back on the bed laughing, then took the vibrator from her and put it in the box.
“Put it back in the wardrobe, my love. I don’t think you need it now – do you – do we?”
“That’s what Helen said when I told her about – us – and…”
“I’m looking forward to meeting Helen. She sounds like a good friend. Do you tell her everything about – us?”
“You really were a shy rosebud when I met you. Can I just say how much I am loving helping you to blossom into the woman you were always meant to be? Do I still have to put all my stuff away though?”
“Yes. The distraction is over!”
“You said that you worked in A&E sometimes, didn’t you?”
“Yes, and I was extremely strict when I needed to be. There, that’s me done. You won’t need any socks. I know most people have gone over to laminate flooring, but John said we couldn’t afford it, and I’m quite fond of my old carpets really.”
“That’s why I liked the hotel – no need for socks unless you actually have to go out. Do I need to put jeans on as well?”
“Provided you put a long tee-shirt on and some boxers, you’ll do. I want you to feel comfortable, but we don’t want to frighten Jane and the cat if they pop over. That’s fine. You do have rather lovely legs, as well as an impressive torso. Downstairs now, before I get distracted again.”
“I don’t mind you being distracted at all.” he said, as he picked up the laundry bag and ran down the stairs and into the kitchen. Diana joined him, more suitably clad in jeans, trainers and an old navy and white striped rugby shirt of Ben’s.
Danny scrutinised her outfit and grinned.
“Is it that rough at the Co-op? You look like you’re off to a scrum. I like it though, it brings back memories, it’s another look for you and highly desirable.”
“I had to buy it for Ben when he was in high school; not that he ever wore it, but purchase was compulsory, it cost a small fortune and I couldn’t bear to throw it away. Luckily it came in an extra, extra-large size. I’d forgotten about your hell-raising past when I put it on. Leave the laundry by the washing machine; I’ll put in in when I get back. I won’t be long but leave the chain off the front door, and please don’t open it to John if he comes back?”
“What about Jane?”
“She’ll come via the back garden and tap on the door. If you’re going to flop on the sofa and watch the television, you’ll see her straight away. She’s lovely, and she’s very pleased for me that you’ve come to stay. I’ll get more juice and fizzy water while I’m out. That’s a wonderful kiss, Danny, but I’ll only be gone ten minutes, unless I get nabbed by a tabloid reporter at the till.”
“Will you be okay? Shall I come too?”
“I wouldn’t put you through that for a small bag of shopping. Stay in the warm.”
She was gone. As advised, Danny flopped on the sofa with the remote in his hand, and flicked through the channels looking for anything to distract him. It reminded him a little of the early days with Lisa, when they could still live in an ordinary house, before his wealth and notoriety had demanded a more secure home. The houses got bigger, and the walls and gates got higher until the involvement in television meant a move to LA, and a farewell to any attempt at normality.
Just as Danny was dozing off, there was a gentle knocking at the kitchen door. He jumped to his feet and took a few moments to work out where he was. An elderly woman was waving at him. Was this Jane? She looked fairly friendly, so he opened the door and smiled.
“Hello! I’m Jane and you must be Danny. Where’s Diana?”
“Hello Jane, Diana’s gone to the Co-op for eggs. She’s cooking us omelettes for dinner. Thank you for looking after the house. Have you got the cat with you?”
“He’s fast asleep on my armchair. I think Diana’s ex has put him off men for life. I have to admit that I was watching from behind the curtains when John turned up earlier. I couldn’t catch everything you said, but you certainly sent him off with a flea in his ear. About time someone stood up to him, miserable little bully.”
“Diana seems so strong, though?” said Danny sitting back down on the sofa. “Why did she put up with him for so long?”
Jane sat down in the armchair, and Danny had to repress a smile when he thought of how he and Diana had abused it earlier.
“She had this cock-eyed idea that she had to wait till the kids were old enough to cope with the stress of a separation and divorce. John got more and more blatant with his affairs and groping; he made a pass at me. Just the once though but it was at my husband’s funeral.”
“Bastard! Sorry. Swearing gets me into trouble. What did you do?”
“Kicked him where it hurt – hard. Then I made an announcement to everyone who was listening. Told them that John had groped me, and that was like letting off a firework. Half the women present had a similar story to tell, and some of the others were too scared to admit it. John did a runner, and when he finally came home, Diana told him she wanted a divorce because he couldn’t deny his philandering any more. It took two years of having to share the house with that slimeball, but she survived it somehow. She knew that if she moved out, he’d sell the house, and she and the kids would have nothing. If this is just a passing fancy, Danny, better get out sooner than later. Life has hurt her enough as it is.”
Taking a deep breath, and making a confession that he hadn’t properly made to Diana yet, he said, “I love her, Jane. She stands up to me like no one else; she seems to understand me, and I feel happier now than I have for a long time. It’s no secret that my wife Lisa had cancer, and that she died two years ago. I’m lucky enough to have people who work for me, work with me, and who pulled me through, but when I met Diana, it was like the fog was finally lifting. I know its early days for us, and I wanted to whisk her away to live in the lap of luxury, but something made me realise that it was asking too much too soon. We need to get to know each better, and this is a good place to start, isn’t it?”
“I’ve read all the stories about you; it’s all in the past though, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, too old to raise hell any more. I can handle the celebrity events – just. Diana made this weekend so much easier. She sees through the publicity crap, and when she has to be kind and in control, she’s awesome. The girl who was attacked and raped at the hotel, Diana was brilliant with her. She knew all the right things to do to preserve evidence, but she held onto that girl like she was her own daughter. I hope she’ll be okay; Diana organised getting her into a private hospital where she can be looked after and have time to recover.”
“I’ll miss Diana.”
“She told you that the house is being put into trust for the children though? To be honest, I’m beginning to think that it would be a good place for the two of us to run away to, if the high life gets too much. Will you carry on looking after the cat, please?”
“Of course. Anyway, I just popped in to say hello, and to make sure everything was okay.”
“Diana has found herself a good man this time. Inside and out. Tell Diana I popped in?”
“Will do. Thank you. I won’t let her down.”
Jane blew him a kiss and went out through the kitchen door, determined to let the other neighbours know that Danny didn’t just look gorgeous, he was a thoroughly nice bloke too.
When she returned from the shop, Diana was expecting to find Danny crashed out on the sofa, with the remote lying on the floor where he’d dropped it. He was in the kitchen when she opened the front door and dumped the shopping bags in the hallway. No one had ever swept her up in their arms in quite the way Danny did. He held on to her as if his life depended upon it.
“Are you okay? Did something happen while I was away? It wasn’t John, was it?”
“No. It was your wonderful friend Jane. She came in to check that everything was okay, and she went away smiling and blowing kisses, so I think I made a favourable impression.”
“Good. What did I do to deserve the bear hug?”
“She helped me to understand a little more about why you are the way that you are. I told her that I loved, you, but I think it’s time that I told you too. I love you, Diana, and I would live wherever you want to live. I can’t give all my money away, nor give up every element of the high life, but we can do compromise, can’t we?”
“Oh Danny. I love you too, and it nearly killed me earlier today when I thought I’d never see you again. What a daft pair we are!”
“Oh, and I did some washing up while you were away. I remembered that glasses should be washed up after you’ve had fruit juice in them, or the bits stick to the glass. It isn’t much, but…”
“I couldn’t have asked for a nicer surprise. Is that your mobile?”
“I left it upstairs. Back in a minute.”
Except that Diana had managed to unpack and put away all the shopping, and quickly rinse off the remaining soap bubbles from the glasses, before Danny came back downstairs clutching his phone, and looking a bit thunderstruck.
“That was Mike. He didn’t want to disturb us but he thought we ought to know. The police have found Simon. He’s dead. He hung himself. According to his friends, he was trying to get out of the country on Sunday, but the net had closed in on that escape route. The police nearly caught him when he tried to get into the hospital; he told his mates that he was going there to apologise to Debbie. He also told them what he’d done and left a note confessing all. Most of the stuff he pinched has been recovered; it was a bit too hot to sell after the press got hold of the details. At least Debbie won’t have to go to court now.”
“Silly little boy. What a waste.” Diana said sadly. “She may not have to go to court, but at least Debbie would have had some closure, now she’ll have the burden of Simon’s suicide to deal with as well. We need to make sure she’s getting some counselling at the hospital. Is Mark going to tell her?”
“Mike phoned Mark before calling us. He sent you his love by the way. I told him you were up the shop, and cooking omelettes for dinner. I also told him that I was very happy, and that I’d already told your ex-husband off. Jane said she was watching out of the window when John turned up, and had to stop herself from cheering when he stomped off.”
“Good old Jane. She’s been a wonderful friend to me. She’s one of the reasons why I needed to come home. Helen is another friend I need to visit. She’s always loathed John, and he did his best to split up our friendship. According to John, Helen would be a burden to her friends because of her disability, and it would mean that I had less time for the kids, and especially him. Enough of John. I got recognised in the Co-op!”
“Was that good or bad?”
“Started off bad; some idiot bloke started making comments about you, and how you must have really sunk low to send your girlfriend out get the shopping from the Co-Op. He was hell bent on telling me what a hoodlum you are, and how you had a history of violence and drinking. The girl on the till told him to stop annoying her customers or she’d have security chuck him out. He went. We cheered. I hadn’t realised that you were that famous. I suppose I must be now after being plastered all over the papers. Are you hungry now?”
“Come and sit in the kitchen while I cook then. You might learn something, although it sounds as if you have already. Thank you for washing up the glasses.”